August 2020

Somebody Call 911: Lowcountry Firefighters

Author: Special to CH2 | Photographer: M.KAT Photography

Peter Janura
Years as a firefighter: 13
Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue

C2: What do you enjoy most about the job?
JH: It’s not a nine-to-five job. Every call is different, and I like hanging out with the guys.

C2: At what point in your career as a fireman were you the most afraid?
JH: I’m afraid that I’m not going to get the fire station clean enough before the pancake breakfast.

C2: What do you do to stay fit?
JH: For sure we do a hang-time challenge on the monkey bars out back and Dance, Dance Revolution.

C2: What do you do on a slow night at the fire station?
JH: Here at Station 4, there is no slow night. But if there is, we watch movies and relax.

C2: What is the most frequent call you get in this area?
JH: Falls with injuries are our most frequent calls here.

C2: Is there any other career path you could see yourself having one day?
JH: I went to school for computer science, but over time I realized sitting behind a desk wasn’t for me.

C2: What do you do for fun?
JH: I like to golf, get out on the water, and hang out with friends and family.

Giovanni Scianna
Years as a Firefighter: 12
Bluffton Township Fire Department

C2: What do you enjoy most about the job?
GS: I enjoy helping people and making a difference in our community. It’s great to get out there and work with a good crew. If I’m there, someone’s probably having a bad day, and I like to try to improve it in some capacity.

C2: At what point in your career as a fireman were you the most afraid?
GS: The first day! Coming in, not knowing what to expect—you have to earn your respect. It was definitely a nail-biting, nerve-racking day.

C2: What do you do to stay fit?
GS: I run and lift weights. I’m one of the assistant coaches for May River’s wrestling team, so I roll around with those guys, and that keeps me in shape. It’s a little longer recovery period lately, but I can do it. Ha! Ha!

C2: What do you do on a slow night at the fire station?
GS: We’re always cooking. If it’s slow, we’ll watch TV, pick a movie—just hang out together.

C2: What is the most frequent call you get in this area?
GS: We get a lot of brush fires this time of year, in this particular district. But the majority of our calls are medical.

C2: Do you have a family, and if so, how do you manage the strange hours required to be a fireman?
GS: I have three boys; two are in high school and one is going into third grade. It’s a complicated balancing act. The guys are good about swapping days when needed, or I’ll take vacation days so I don’t miss sporting events. We make it work.

C2: Is there any other career path you could see yourself having one day?
GS: I went to school and got a biology degree because I wanted to be an anesthesiologist, so maybe an ER physician … something along those lines?

C2: What do you do for fun?
GS: Surf. I’m not good at it, but I try. I work out, spend time with my kids, and I love doing DIY projects around the house.

BJ Ferguson
Years as a firefighter: 18
Hilton Head Fire & Rescue

C2: What do you enjoy most about the job?
BF: The camaraderie with the guys. We work 24-hour shifts, so you get to know people and you get to become friends with them. Also, I grew up on Hilton Head Island, so I like being able to serve the community I grew up in and was raised in.

C2: At what point in your career as a fireman were you the most afraid?
BF: A few months ago, when COVID-19 was just picking up in our area, we were working on a cardiac arrest patient who we didn’t know at the time was positive. Throughout the course of the call, we found out he had COVID-19, so we were able to take the right steps moving forward with a 14-day quarantine. I guess my biggest fear was that I was going to contract it. Thankfully no one got sick.

C2: What do you do to stay fit?
GS: We have weight rooms at every station. The town graciously pays us to work out on shift, and we try to do at least an hour or two because physical fitness is so important to our job. A lot of the guys are into CrossFit right now. Our community expects us to be in tip-top shape!

C2: What do you do on a slow night at the fire station?
GS: There really aren’t a whole lot of slow nights anymore. We used to have time to play cards and watch TV, but now, if there’s downtime, we are just trying to grab a few hours of sleep.

C2: What is the most frequent call you get in this area?
GS: 80 percent of our calls are medical, and most of those are falls. Our population on Hilton Head Island is a little older, so that makes sense.

C2: Do you have a family, and if so, how do you manage the strange hours required to be a fireman?
GS: I’m married with four children, so yes, it’s challenging. Luckily my wife is a scheduling guru. She’s awesome, and you can quote me on that!

C2: Is there any other career path you could see yourself having one day?
GS: Definitely something in public service … maybe police work, or working for a public utility? I’m a people-person, so something where I would be able to work with the community.

C2: What do you do for fun?
GS: Surf. I’m not good at it, but I try. I work out, spend time with my kids, and I love doing DIY projects around the house.

Guillermo Holzman
Years as a firefighter: 6
Bluffton Township Fire Department

C2: What do you enjoy most about the job?
GH: Giving back to the community. I like to help people on their worst days. I also love the camaraderie I have with the other guys.

C2: At what point in your career as a fireman were you the most afraid?
GH: The first day. The hardest thing was to prove myself to the other guys. The first few months were pretty scary.

C2: What do you do to stay fit?
GH: Watch what I eat! Which is hard around the fire station because we like to cook, and we eat pretty well. I go to the gym in the morning or at night, and we work out together at the station as well.

C2: What do you do on a slow night at the fire station? Cook? Clean? Read? Watch TV? Make TikTok videos?
GH: All of the above—plus some unnecessary online shopping.

C2: What is the most frequent call you get in this area?
GH: Because Bluffton is growing so much, we are getting a lot more calls for car wrecks as well as a lot of medical. Lift and assist is pretty common because of our older population.

C2: Do you have a family, and if so, how do you manage the strange hours required to be a fireman?
GH: I do my best to always put my family first. It just takes some planning.

C2: Is there any other career path you could see yourself having one day?
GH: I always wanted to be an astronaut. I don’t ever tell anyone that—especially now with all the cool technology we have. I keep track of NASA and everything they’ve been doing lately. If I could do something else, that would be it.

C2: What do you do for fun?
GH: I play video games. I’m a Call of Duty guy for sure. I’m also learning how to cut hair, so I practice on the guys when they let me. Working on cars is fun too.

Captain Lee Jenkins
Years as a firefighter: 14
Hilton Head Fire & Rescue

C2: What do you enjoy most about the job?
LJ: What I enjoy most about the job is being able to give back to the community in which I was raised. As a native islander, I enjoy being a resource for all in the community. I am fortunate to be a member of a work group within Fire Rescue that is addressing reducing community risks. I have had the privilege to lead Fire Rescue projects that increase our participation and interaction within the community. Some of those projects include the annual MLK Celebration and working with La Isla magazine to increase awareness about the programs and services we offer. I also enjoy the team concept of this profession. We accomplish more together.

C2: At what point in your career as a fireman were you the most afraid?
LJ: I don’t know that I’ve been afraid. I’ve accepted the fact that there is an inherent risk that comes with this profession. To me, preparation is the key. My crew will probably tell you that I have a few different sayings. One is, “We prepare in here, so we can perform out there.” The other is, “Knowledge is power. In the words of GI Joe, “knowing is half the battle.” I place a huge emphasis on arming myself with knowledge. Knowledge, preparation and past experiences enhance my critical thinking and judgement. What I am most afraid of is being on duty and hearing a call at the address of my parents. That fear motivates me to treat every citizen as someone’s loved one.

C2: What do you do on a slow night at the fire station?
LJ: On a slow night at the fire station, I listen to audio books, watch YouTube or read about boxing. I enjoy listening to influencers and people who want to positively change the world like Dr. Cornel West. Currently, I’m listening to “What it means to be Human” by Dr. West. I’m a huge boxing fan as well. I often watch classic fighters like Muhammed Ali, Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Roy Jones Jr., and many others. I am currently watching The Last Dance. Michael Jordan, the basketball player inspires me. He said, “I don’t have a gambling problem. I have a competition problem.” Like Michael Jordan, I strive to be the best in everything I do.

C2: What is the most frequent call you get in this area?
LJ: The most frequent 911 call we get depends on the time of the year. Throughout the year, we get many falls, but during peak season, we get a lot of stingray punctures.

C2: Do you have a family, and if so, how do you manage the strange hours required to be a fireman?
LJ: Yes, I have a family. My family consists of my mother, father, sister, nephew and special friend. I love my family. Their love and support is unwavering, unconditional and eternally loyal. No matter what challenges I face at work or in life, my family’s undying love for me will propel me to succeed. I am blessed and fortunate. I understand that many people in the world are facing challenges right now. I live by the principle, “If it can be done, I can do it.” My family motivates me to be the example.

Jeff Hinton
Years as a firefighter: 27
Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue

C2: What do you enjoy most about the job?
JH: The camaraderie among my fellow employees. No matter what’s going on at the station, you can always count on your co-workers to pick you up (or put you down … ha! ha!). I really enjoy hanging out with the other firemen.

C2: At what point in your career as a fireman were you the most afraid?
JH: We try not to be afraid, because if you are scared, you can’t think properly or function.

C2: What do you do to stay fit?
JH: Well, every year it gets harder and harder because I’m no spring chicken. But weights combined with cardio is my routine.

C2: What do you do on a slow night at the fire station?
JH: Sometimes we’ll watch a movie together or just shoot the breeze. But if I want some down time, I’ll watch a rugby game in my nice quiet office.

C2: What is the most frequent call you get in this area?
JH: Ambulance service calls: strokes, cardiac issues, general weakness.

C2: Do you have a family, and if so, how do you manage the strange hours required to be a fireman?
JH: I do. A have a lovely wife April and two children, Katie and Eric. I’ve been a firefighter the entire time we’ve been married, so we really don’t know any different.

C2: Is there any other career path you could see yourself having one day?
JH: I would love to be a wilderness guide somewhere out West.

C2: What do you do for fun?
JH: My wife and I go the beach or go kayaking. We also like heading to the mountains in North Carolina for some hiking.

Jerry Piccioli
Years as a firefighter: 15
Bluffton Township Fire Department

C2: What do you enjoy most about the job?
JP: Every third day, I get to hang out and work with my friends.

C2: At what point in your career as a fireman were you the most afraid?
JP: My first fire.

C2: What do you do to stay fit?
JP: I do a lot of walking, pushups and pullups.

C2: What do you do on a slow night at the fire station?
JP: Watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.

C2: What is the most frequent call you get in this area?
JP: In Palmetto Bluff, it’s fire alarms going off. But as a whole for Bluffton, it’s lift and assist.

C2: Do you have a family, and if so, how do you manage the strange hours required to be a fireman?
JP: I have two teenage girls who are pretty self-sufficient at this point. If they need something, they call me, but for the most part, they try to avoid hanging out with me whenever they can.

C2: Is there any other career path you could see yourself having one day?
JP: Maybe a dentist or a doctor.

C2: What do you do for fun?
JP: Go to the beach. 

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